A bit about Steve Jobs

Like many people I was sad to hear about the death of Steve Jobs. And that’s understandable, it’s sad when people die, especially at a relatively young age. But it affected me much more than I had anticipated. It’s so strange and I want to better understand why I feel this way.

A criticism I read on Twitter was that Jobs was a father figure and that his loyal fans were treating his death like the death of a literal father. But I certainly never felt that way about him, in fact, I often criticised Apple’s choices as a company and even now feel uncomfortable with some of the ways they do business. But in that criticism I feel there is something true, that Jobs represented some qualities of a father. What we saw was just the public representation of the man, a fairly controlled aspect of him, and the myths and stories that were attached to him. He came to represent an ideal.

A few people have pointed out to me that Microsoft and Bill Gates have done more for the world, and by some measures have been better at it than Apple. This isn’t a popular opinion, but it’s one I can to some extent agree with. Certainly, any good that Microsoft have done has been overshadowed by their increasingly poor reputation, but where these companies differ fundamentally I think is in their broad approach to technology. Microsoft have done more than anyone to democratise the personal computer by chasing a mass market. Apple on the other hand have tried to develop products that are the best in their class. And whether or not you think that they have succeeded at that, it is that intention that sets them apart.

Jung believed that the conscience was an internalisation of our parents and other figures of authority and in that sense, for people whose job is making things, the idea of Steve Jobs can act as an internal voice demanding that we do our best. I know that might sound like an apotheosis, but again, I’m not talking about the real man, I’m talking about what he stood for in our collective minds.

The podcast network 5 by 5 recorded a tribute to Steve Jobs and I felt especially moved by the contribution from Adam Lisagor, in this he says:

I’ll tell you something about what I’ve learned from you, something that’s now more clear in the last day or so than it’s ever been before, that it’s OK to say no to the things in our lives that add no meaning, that by doing so we set the context within which to be our greatest selves. In the way you began at some point to wake up each day and confront yourself with your mortality, I’ll from here on wake up and ask myself how many things am I doing that add no meaning and whatever that number is is how many things I’ll strip away. Because I want to be my greatest self like you.

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